ABT's Met Season To Be Shortened By Three Weeks
Tucked into a recent article in The New York Times about an upcoming schedule-change at the Metropolitan Opera, was a small bombshell: To accommodate the opera's plans, American Ballet Theatre, with whom it shares the house, will "reduce its Met season to five weeks from the current eight" starting in 2021. The news was dropped casually, practically as an aside.
Maybe it shouldn't come as such a surprise. No regular ABT attendee can have failed to notice that, in recent seasons, there have been performances that were significantly under-sold. This happened even in the case of enduringly popular works like Giselle. Only Misty Copeland or the occasional visitor—Natalia Osipova, say—can fill that cavernous, almost 4,000-seat monolith.
(To be fair, the opera has the same problem; in May of 2017 it was reported to have attained only 67% of potential box office receipts.)
So, one can't help but wonder if this shortening of ABT's spring season isn't partly tactical. Reached for comment, a company representative would say only this:
"Although we would love to dance on the Met stage for eight weeks or more each year, we look forward to programming and presenting five weeks of extraordinary ballet to appreciative and enthusiastic audiences at the Met. While it is premature to announce specifics, we have exciting plans underway for ABT's future performances in New York, across the country and around the world."
The representative would not be drawn out on the nature of those "exciting plans," so we'll just have to wait and see what materializes. But reason would seem to indicate that, for a company that works 36 weeks each year, the loss of three weeks of employment at the Met is not, on the face of it, a good thing.
Isabella Boylston in Alexei Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy ABT
The news comes only a year after the shuttering of the Lincoln Center Festival, which reduced the summer programming at this cultural hub from seven weeks to five in 2018. Dance—particularly in the form of large, ambitious productions—lost one of its most exciting showcases, a loss only partly made up by other festivals, like Mostly Mozart and White Light. It's notable that the Times article about the Met re-shuffling mentioned the cut to ABT's season only in passing, as an event of minor importance. Ballet, and dance in general, has often fought to be taken as seriously as the other performing arts; attitudes don't seem to have changed much.
Perhaps, though, ABT has other, better plans up its sleeve. It's true that the Met spring season format—week-long runs of one evening-length story ballet after another—is ripe for an upgrade. Does the ballet audience need to see Natalia Makarova's La Bayadère, and Kevin McKenzie's Swan Lake year after year? Maybe the low attendance is caused by attrition, or boredom. Even the new works created for the Met, like Alexei Ratmansky's reconstruction of Marius Petipa's Harlequinade, would look better on a smaller stage.
A partnership with a different theater in New York might open the way for more varied, less stolid fare. The Koch and City Center are occupied in June and early July, but how about the Brooklyn Academy of Music, for example? "They could start the season there, following Dance Africa, with more adventurous choreography, then move on to the Met for the swans and pirates," suggested a colleague in the New York performing arts community. Not a bad idea.
- Why Ballet Needs ABT's Choreography Workshop: ABT Incubator ›
- How ABT Dancers Get Through Two Grueling Months of Met ... ›
Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.
But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.